The “it just tastes like a candy bar” dessert!

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Ok these are so easy and so tasty – my family loves them and guests too. Have your treats without the guilt! These are sweet and caloric but they are good calories – far from the empty calories of most candy bars (More info on dates here). 

Almond Butter Dates with Dark Chocolate

Ingredients:

Dried Dates
Almond Butter*
Dark Chocolate

*I make my own almond butter by just taking almond meal (easily available in Switzerland at Coop and Migros) and blending it with a non flavored oil, (grape seed works well) a bit of honey and salt to taste.  Delish and easy!

Just cut the dates in half and take out the pit.  Fill with almond butter and add two small pieces of dark chocolate to the top.  That’s it!  Oh, freeze if you like. I love them frozen.  These are not only good for dessert, but also just as a snack when you are craving something sweet.

Maria Wilson, who introduced me to this lovely recipe, says they taste like frozen SNICKERS® to her – to me they just taste amazing!  Try them for yourself and please let me know what you think!!!

THANKS MARIA!!!!

Happy snacking!

Rylla Signature

Cook & Dine – Restaurant Sonne, Bottmingen

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Schedules are busy, so we have postponed this event till next fall.   In September, join Chef Philippe Bamas of Restaurant & Bistro Sonne in Bottmingen for a morning of cooking and an evening of finest dining.  Originally from Provence, this innovative French chef now delights diners in Basel lucky enough to find him.  Find him I did, and after happily eating there on several occasions, I met the owner and chef, and well, here we are!

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10 of us will cook together with Mr. Bamas on Saturday morning for several hours.  Then we get to go home, rest and tidy up (hey let’s make it a DUGO night – Dress Up, Go Out!) and go back to the restaurant with the guest of our choice to enjoy together what we have prepared.

Cook & Dine Package

–Cook with Chef Bamas for 4 -5 hours on Saturday morning/afternoon (Get ready to work.)
–Prepare and enjoy this hand selected menu that was especially designed for Expat Kochen!
–Kickstart your cooking abilities by learning amazing techniques from this innovative & passionate chef.
–Learn from a master – ask questions – be inspired!
–Indulge in a feast for 2, including a trio of starters, fish as a main course, and a decadent chocolate dessert.
–Enjoy an aperitif and wine as part of the menu, along with water and coffee.
–Take home recipes, life long skills, and amazing memories.

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Just eating for two at this fine restaurant would cost around 300 Chf.  For only 100 Chf more, you can learn from and cook with the master and have an incredible meal for 2 including a glass of wine with each course – all for 400 Chf.

The philosophy of Sonne Bottmingen:

“If you want to treat your guests to food of the highest possible standard, then using fresh, high-quality ingredients goes without saying. However, freshness alone will not bring that happy smile to people’s faces that tells the chef he has got it right.

Philippe Bamas’ roots lie in picturesque Provence. His cooking style has also been inspired by his travels all over the world. The result is light, delicate dishes that never cease to surprise: they are unmistakeable and sophisticated. At the Sonne Bottmingen, Philippe Bamas looks forward to delighting you with his passion for the very best.”

And now, to further inspire you and whet your appetite, here’s a link for the menu…Cook&Dine-menu.  (Note it includes foie gras, tuna and more, fish as the main course and a decadent chocolate dessert!)

And to learn more about Philippe Bamas another link…Philippe Bamas info.

This is an incredible opportunity to work with an up and coming chef who happens to live in our own back yard.  Don’t miss your chance to join this unique class.  If you are interested please contact me as soon as possible to hold your place with a 100 Chf deposit.  

What/Where Cook & Dine Experience for 1 cook, 2 diners at Restaurant Sonne, Bottmingen
When: Saturday morning and evening, 1st of February, May 17th, 2014
Cost: 400 Chf for entire experience, cooking for 1, dining for 2
Register: Email expatkochen@gmail.com by Jan. 24th.  Limit 8 people. We’ll send payment info and details via email.

What a way to start 2014 celebrate spring – I am so happily anticipating this event and so looking forward to sharing it with you!

Warmest regards,

Rylla Signature

 

 

 

Foie Gras Field Trip – Alsace

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As the holidays approach I am looking forward to sharing my handmade, by my own hands, foie gras!  What a treat it was to go and spend time with Monsieur Marcel Metzler of La Boutique Canoie in Gueberschwihr.  He and his family welcomed us with open arms and incredible food!

On Friday evening we had a sumptuous meal at his restaurant, Le Goldert, complete with three types of foie gras; duck, goose, and a combination of the two. Amazing. And a perfect way to prepare us for the morning class.

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After stuffing ourselves with incredible food and wine we wandered (or did we roll?  It was downhill!) to our lovely apartments.  The next morning we had a bit of coffee and treats together and then we were ready!

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We headed upstairs from the Boutique and began with a history of foie gras, including details of how the geese and duck are fed (FYI They are not force fed, in fact, Monsieur Metzler says that only makes sick animals, not good foie gras), and then how the livers are harvested and delivered to him ultra-fresh.

(Just recently I heard a great story on This American Life about foie gras and the way it is made, and indeed how it doesn’t work to force feed the birds, but instead to care for them tenderly.  I invite you to listen to this story and leave a comment here after listening. This story goes right along with everything that we learned from Monsieur Metzler.)

After that things moved pretty quickly as you can see…

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 We listened, we learned, we cleaned and prepared our foie gras. Wanna learn yourself?  Get yourself to La Boutique Canoie or join us for the Expat Kochen class next year.  I am so looking forward to it!

Next Candy was bestowed with the “top chef” crown.  Way to go Candy!

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After that we went to a wine tasting at Domaine Bernard Humbrecht for more deliciousness while our foie gras was cooking.  No fun at all, can you tell? ;-)

Gathered our things from the apartments and then headed back to La Boutique Canoie so we each could bring home our homemade, handmade foie gras…along with big smiles!What a wonderful 24 hours in Alsace.  (I must admit that I liked it so much I stayed till over so I got 48 hours or so – glorious!) Thanks to all the participants.  And here’s to doing it again next year!

With that I wish you all happy holidays and a fabulous start to 2014.  Cook with love, eat well, take time to enjoy your food and your loved ones.  See you next year!

Warmly,

Rylla Signature

Sautéed Salad?

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Why not?

Recently when wanting a “different” salad, I saw that I had some baby romaine lettuce and thought of grilling it, but the weather wasn’t cooperating.  Have you heard of or tried grilling lettuce?  I know, sounds kind of odd, and perhaps it is, but then isn’t anything that is new odd, at least for a while?  Anyway, I have grilled lettuce and loved the slightly roasted flavor that results for the whole salad.

However, as I said the weather wasn’t cooperating.  So plan B (I often end up liking plan B much better than plan A.  You?) it was.  I began by caramelizing lots of onions in olive oil and  a sprinkle or two of salt.  I had bought a huge bag and they weren’t lasting so I needed to use them, and caramelizing is always such a great solution.  Not only do you end up with an onion jam that is a great accompaniment for so many things, you also get to enjoy the smell as you cook them – marvelous!

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Once the onions were nicely yellowing I put half of them into a jar for later use, and then added some dried chopped figs to the mix.  (In Basel is the season for those lovely ones from Spain, available at Coop and Migros)

IMG_2959After sautéeing them for about 7 minutes, I deglazed the pan with some sherry, and took the onions and figs out of the pan and set them aside.  Then I added a bit more olive oil (about a tablespoon) and put the cut romaine lettuce, cut side down, into the pan and left for about 5 minutes, until the cut side was just beginning to brown.

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 I flipped them over and moved them around so that all the lettuce could get those lovely browned bits on the bottom.

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And that was about it.  I did slice and add some avocado to the mix.  You can do the same, adding whatever you have on hand that sounds good.  Plate the salad individually with the onion fig jam on top, and then drizzle with balsamic or balsamic crema (buy or make).  This salad was a big hit, and other than taking the time to caramelize the onions (which should never be rushed, but can be done ahead of time), was quick.

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This is a very satisfying salad, especially as the weather turns cold.  Let me know if you try it.

Rylla Signature

Class in Alsace? Foie Gras it is!

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An overnight getaway, dinner,  learning foie gras preparation, wine tasting, hiking around a beautiful and yet, not so well known Alsatian town?  WHO’S IN?

After years of organizing events in the Basel area I am happy to announce the first ever Expat Kochen Field Research Class.  The topic:  FOIE GRAS.  The place:  Gueberschwihr.  Gueberschwihr, about an hour from Basel, is a charming little gem of a town.  At first glance you might pass it by, but you would miss a lovely spot with cobblestone streets, traditional Alsatian architecture, and warm, inviting people.

Surrounded by vineyards and spectacular views, on Friday night we will dine at the Restaurant le Goldert where our meal will be prepared by Marcel Metzler, chef and Artisan Createur de Foie Gras.  We will spend the night at a nearby Gite, or bed and breakfast within stumbling distance of the restaurant.

Saturday morning after breakfast we will attend Mr. Metzler’s Foie Gras Class, where we will learn how to clean and prepare duck liver for foie gras.  Next comes wine-tasting/food pairing class in the village, followed by some free time while the foie gras cooks.  You can grab a picnic and hike to see the spectacular views, wander the town and continue wine-tasting, or just sit and soak up the ambience.

By late afternoon our foie gras will be ready for pickup.  We’ll meet at the Goldert restaurant for afternoon coffee or tea, grab our goodies and be ready to go.  Unless you aren’t ready to leave, in which case you are welcome to arrange to stay for Saturday night as well and make a fabulous weekend getaway out of it!

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THE DATES:  NOVEMBER 15 – 16, 2013

  • Stay in Gueberschwihr, a  town at the foot of the Voges mountains in the wine country of Alsace.
  • Learn the art of preparing foie gras from Chef Marcel Metzler, foie gras specialist.
  • Enjoy Friday night dinner specially prepared for us by Chef Marcel Metzler.
  • Taste wine in a “cave” that has been operating since the 1600’s.
  • Explore the spectacular views hiking the area (map provided).
  • Enjoy sharing this experience with other Basel area foodies!
  • Take home 400 grams of foie gras, preserved and ready to open for your next special occasion, or just because you can’t wait!
  • Enjoy a welcome glass of Cremant upon arrival, and take home a special gift from Expat Kochen as a memento.

Price: 350 Chf per person. Early Bird Discount of 50 Chf available to those who sign up and arrange deposit by October 15!

Email me for the details.  10 people max for this excursion — (only 7 spots left). Sign up soon!  

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Here’s to taking advantage of where we live and grabbing experiences when we can. And here’s to enjoying the area, the people, the wine, the food and the preparing of it, together. I am so looking forward to this adventure – already have some people signed up.  Won’t you join us?

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Smiling in anticipation,

Rylla Signature

 

Rylla Resler
Expat Kochen
expatkochen@gmail.com

Remember space is extremely limited – contact me soon!  

Summer Salad – Colorful Couscous!

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This colorful, crunchy salad is filled with enough yumminess to make a meal. And tastes like summer to me – as school starts next week for my kids, I am reveling in the last days! Ahhh, summer!

Confetti Couscous Salad

225 g (8 oz) couscous
2 bunches flat leaf parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh ground coriander seeds
1 red onion, roughly chopped
1 cucumber, roughly chopped
1 large carrot, roughly chopped and blanched*
1 sweet potato, peeled and cooked in salted water, then roughly chopped

60 g (2 oz) sunflower seeds
60 g (2 oz) sesame seeds (I used black which look so lovely)
30 g (1 oz) flax seeds

1 lime, juice and zest
1/2 cup olive oil (more or less to taste)
sea salt and fresh ground pepper

  1. Cook the sweet potato in salted water and blanch the carrots.  (To blanch simply drop the carrots into boiling water for a minute or two depending on the size of the carrot, then put into cold water to stop the cooking process.)  Then roughly chop both.
  2. Cover the couscous with twice its volume of hot water and leave to soak for 10 minutes.
  3. Lightly toast all your seeds.  (How to here)
  4. Mix all ingredients together and leave to stand for 30 minutes to let the flavours develop.
  5. Serve at room temperature.  (I like it chilled also, especially on a hot day!)

You might want to add a bit of hot pepper sauce to the mix (stir in with lime juice and olive oil). The result is tasty and summery, looks like a big bowl of confetti to me. What fun! By the way, my 13 year old loved this – hope you do too.

Happy Cooking!

Rylla Signature

 

Second Annual Olive Oil Tasting – Recap

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Ok, it’s official.  These tastings are so delightful – they must happen at least annually! We did have some issues at this most recent event, too much olive oil to taste!  Such a problem, but somehow we persevered.

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If you have followed this blog for a while you may remember hearing about Giuseppe Virgallita and his home olive oil deliveries about a year ago.  Giuseppe and Maria Therese are from Italy, and for the past several years, Giuseppe has been bringing his family olive oil to Basel, selling it to anyone interested.  When I heard about it I was intrigued, and so it was that we came to taste olive oil with Expat Kochen about a year ago.

This tasting was all about abundance!  Last week, someone overheard our hostess, Linda, speaking about the upcoming tasting when she was at the golf course.  The gentleman approached Linda, told her about his French olive oil from Provence, and gave her several bottles to bring to the tasting.  :-)

P1050627Then one of the attendees, Lara, told me that her neighbor, also from Italy, sells olive oil, and sure enough she brought several for us to taste.  Technically we probably should have stayed with around 4, maybe 5 oils to taste, as Giuseppe says that the professional tasters only taste two at a time.  I think there were 10 plus!  We didn’t each taste them all, but we were happy to try many, to be able to pick and choose, take a break, eat some of the yummy food, sip some Italian wine, and then taste again.

P1050620Great people, great weather, beautiful setting, and delicious olive oil!  I call that ABUNDANCE!

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Thanks to Linda for hosting and providing food, to Giuseppe and Maria Therese for the beautiful oils and pizza, and to Lara for bringing oil too.

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Now for the recipes…you can find them all online.  Just click the links below for a starting place, then do your own thing!

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Linda made Bruschetta – there are many recipes available with different twists, but here is a simple one, pretty much what Linda did.

I made Torta di Erbe and Potato Foccacia with Carmelized Onions, however instead of using rosemary with the onions, I added some sofrito to the foccacia.

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There are many definitions/recipes for sofrito.  I made a Spanish style sofrito, consisting of tomatoes, roasted peppers, garlic, olives and spices cooked down to almost a paste.

You can find the recipe for that sofrito here, second recipe down.  It was a big hit at the tasting, and we agreed that it might be something to just have in the larder for so many things…mixed into salad, with pasta, on pizza, on bread for bruschetta, on a tortilla with some melted mozzarella, mmmm, so many possibilities!P1050634

Enjoy your food and all that goes into it, perhaps olive oil, love, and your artistic flare!

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Already looking forward to next year…

Rylla Signature

 

 

 

Tropical Tootsies!

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Unfortunately we must postpone this event.  The turnout was looking small, and some things came up personally for us as hosts.  So we look forward to rescheduling this pampering event for later this year.  Meanwhile here’s a recipe for one of the dishes we had planned to serve.  I tried it out on unsuspecting guests last weekend…thanks to Liz for sharing her old Donna Hay magazines.  They are such an inspiration!

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Prawn Sushi with Pickled Cucumbers – Donna Hay Feb/Mar 2009

pickled cucumbers

2 tablespoons caster sugar
1/4 cup (60 ml) rice wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon table salt
3 Lebanese cucumbers, thinly sliced

To make the pickled cucumber, place the sugar, vinegar and salt in a non-metalic bowl and stir until dissolved.  Add the cucumber and stir to combine.  Set aside.

prawn sushi

2 cups (400 g) sushi rice
3 cups (750 ml) water
1/3 cup (80 ml) rice wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon table salt
400 g (14 oz) cooked prawns, peeled, tails removed, and halved lengthwise
wasabi paste and soy sauce to serve

Place the rice and water in a saucepan over high heat and bring to the boil.  Reduce the heat to low, cover with a tight-fitting lid and cook for 12 minutes.  Remove from the heat and set aside for 10 minutes or until the rice is cooked.  Place the vinegar, sugar and salt in a non-metallic bowl and stir until dissolved.  Spread the rice over the base of a large, shallow non-metallic dish and sprinkle with the vinegar mixture.  Stir with a spatula for 5 minutes or until cool to the touch.

Line a 20cm x 30cm tin with plastic wrap.  Line the base of the tin with the prawns, (pink side down).  Top with the rice and press down firmly.  Place a sheet of non-stick baking paper on top and fold over the plastic wrap to enclose.  Place a piece of cardboard on top and weigh down with cans.  Refrigerate for 1 hour.  Turn out, slice and serve with wasabi, soy sauce and the pickled cucumber.  Serves 6.

Rylla Ramblings:  Next time I would consider putting just a tiny bit of wasabi on the shrimp, then adding the rice, and perhaps drizzling soy sauce over the top once it is flipped over.   I used a Pyrex dish to do this and it worked beautifully.  I was worried it might fall apart when releasing it from the pan, but had no problems.  It was so pretty coming out as a big rectangle that I served it like that, then sliced it when we were ready to eat.  The variations on this are endless…and it is beautiful and lovely to serve to a crowd!

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 Do let me know if you try it; would love to hear how it goes!

And we will let you know when we reschedule this event.  Happy cooking!

Rylla

 

My favorite second hand boutique in the area is Micaela’s in Riehen.  I have found some lovely treasures there – and recommend it highly.  Micaela now has a new location just down the street – Micaela’s Gifts, Accessories, Art, with gifts downstairs and a salon upstairs!

We get to share cocktails and pampering in her lovely new space.  Art, sculpture, one of a kind scarves, colorful Italian gloves.  Candles for spring and summer and more.  Come and take a peek, shop if you like.  Drink some tropical cocktails, eat some delectable nibbles, celebrate spring/summer with us.

And get pampered!  You can make appointments for hair styling/cutting, manicures and pedicures and foot massage/reflexology (charged separately).  Appointments are limited by space and time, so if you are interested, call Micaela’s as soon as possible.  We will be there on May 18th from 2pm – 6pm, and appointments are available throughout.   Here is the contact information.  (If you want to speak English call the cell number.)

Micaela’s Gifts, Accessories, Art

061 641 08 32 – shop/salon
076 372 15 56 – cell

I am soooo ready for summer, and am eager to usher it in with you all.  Hope you can join us!

Warmly,

Rylla Signature

 

 

 

 

TROPICAL TOOTSIES, COCKTAILS AND PAMPERING.  DETAILS HERE.

Where: Schmiedgasse 10
4125 Riehen
When: Saturday, 18th of May, 2013, 14:00 – 18:00
Cost: 25 CHF in advance, 35 CHF at the door for cocktails and appetizers.  (Salon services extra – contact Micaela’s for details)
RSVP: By May 12th please,  expatkochen@gmail.com. Space is limited. Payment info and directions will be sent via email.

Foods of the World – Mexico

One week after we visited the Sri Lankan kitchen we found ourselves (some of the same Basel foodies, some different) in Rocio’s warm, inviting Mexican kitchen.  The counters were filled with chips, salsa, cucumber and carrot slices sitting in a bed of sea salt, sprinkled with chili powder/salt mix.  Beautiful, delicious, a little different =  fabulous.  We all began chopping the vegetables for the veggie and chicken fajitas that were to come.  Conversation flowed along with the tangy hibiscus iced tea.

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In what seemed like about 5 minutes, we were all sitting round the table helping ourselves to fajitas with a creamy spicy sauce (adding the sour cream into the sauce was a brilliant touch!), topped with beautiful guacamole and pico de gallo.  Once again, my mouth was happy.  I think it must be the spice and varied flavors that my mouth craves.

I was struck by how simple and delicious it was.  Sometimes I get caught up in doing things the hard way, but here simplicity reigns supreme.   A great reminder for me.  This is such an easy quick meal anytime.  For me it makes a perfect Friday night dinner.  After a busy week here is an easy one dish meal that pleases all, is simple to prepare and clean up.  Perfect.

Here is the recipe.  Try it and see how it works for you and your clan!

Creamy Mexican Fajitas (Chicken or Vegetarian)

 

Enjoy your food,

Rylla Signature

 

 

 

 

 

P.S.  Special thanks to Abi and Rocio for sharing themselves and their kitchens for these Foods of the World events!  Next time Tapas!

Foods of the World – Sri Lanka

Last month a group of Basel “foodies” met in a warm, welcoming kitchen filled with intoxicating, savory smells and delicious sounding sizzles.  Upon closer inspection we found beautifully colored lentils, vegetables, fruits, herbs, peppers and spices, all waiting to come together into what would be our incredible Sri Lankan feast.

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Times like this I see food as art – art that is part of daily life, the palette of colors, textures, shapes, smells and flavors just waiting to be blended into today’s masterpiece.  Sometimes minimalist and simple, sometimes layered and complex, always unique.  Add to people who love food to the mix and voila, an amazing vernissage (literally varnishing in French; used to mean the opening of a show, often an art show) and finissage (used in German to mean end of show) all in one.   No stuffed shirts however, no art snobs – only those coming together for the sake of sharing the preparation and the eating of the art in community.

Years ago my nephew Tyler had an art school assignment – create art using found objects, found people.  He did some amazing portraits of people living on the streets of Chicago on pieces of broken mirror, an old suitcase, whatever he had “found.”  My son was with me at the opening and was about 2 years old.  He walked up to the suitcase, picked it up and started walking across the room.  There was a quick intake of breaths followed by sudden silence as everyone held their breaths, waiting to see what would happen.  Then the artist spoke,  “It’s a suitcase.  Of course he can pick it up.”  Exhalations abounded and the acceptable din of noise returned.  Tyler told me he thought art was not something to be revered, to be kept away from us, on a pedestal, separate, nor was it meant to last forever.  A revelation to me – art to live with, not to be careful of.  I love that thought.  I wonder if we are surrounded by art?  Food certainly can be art to me – art to live with, to enjoy in this moment.

Back to the feast we were enjoying in that moment.  It was indeed an incredible site to behold, and the flavors – pungent and spicy – made my mouth happy.  Looking around, breathing it in, tasting it, listening to the happy conversations – it wasn’t just my mouth that was happy.  I am indeed a fortunate woman to be surrounded by such abundance.

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The recipes you say?  Here they are.  And please check out Ami’s Vegetarian Delicacies for lots more!

Seeni Sambol (Caramalised Onion with Ceylon Spices)

Red Lentils Curry

Coconut Sambol (Grated Coconut Salad with Chili)

This was such a hit we did it again the next week, Mexican with Rocio.  Look for the post about that soon, plus join us for Spanish Tapas with Lar next month.  Watch here for details!

Enjoy your food,

Rylla Signature

 

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